After a hell of a satisfying comeback win in Washington D.C., the Boston Celtics came back to the Garden, with the Indiana Pacers waiting for them. Sadly, the hyper-efficient dominance of Pacers star Victor Oladipo, a piss-poor first half by the Celtics and some wobbling down the stretch despite a valiant comeback effort made this one a loss.
THE GAME FLOW
It quickly became popular among the NBA intelligentsia to say the Pacers won their trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder, dealing Paul George for Oladipo and Donatas Sabonis. I initially had doubts, but at this point in the 2017-18 season, said popular opinion is 100 percent true. Oladipo fired on all cylinders right from jump to put the Celtics behind early, hitting 11 points in Q1, but recent injury return Myles Turner did a fair piece of damage himself, with 8 points and 4 boards.
As for the Celtics, none of their offense seemed in sync—a logical result of being on a back-to-back that involved travel, but frustrating nonetheless. Kyrie was scoreless through much of the first half, let alone Q1, with Jayson Tatum the only Celtic capable of meaningful production…by which I mean 6 points. This was a fairly brutal half for Boston by any standard, but defensively it was a train wreck, and it wasn’t even as turnover-laden as so many recent games have been. The squad just wasn’t locked in; not even close.
Good as Oladipo was, he wasn’t putting on a one-man show. The entire Indiana roster, including Turner, Lance Stephenson and Thad Young, was locked in, with something to prove. It didn’t look like that was the case with Boston. They were tired and devoid of consistency, only showing life at the tail end of the second quarter. That burst of life on the parquet floor got the crowd going, but only managed to get the Celtics to 21 down (as opposed to almost 30) at the half, 59-38 Pacers.
The third quarter began with Boston coming out of the tunnel furious and motivated. “Quite the change from the first half” doesn’t begin to describe how different a team these Celtics appeared in the third quarter. The Pacers did reasonably well early in the quarter, but virtually disappeared behind steals, defensive stops and a series of made shots—more than a few of the most difficult ones knocked down by Jaylen Brown—that were straight-up sports movie-type stuff. Indiana’s advantage early in the frame was so great that they stayed ahead for the entire frame, but after a run that ended up being 36-17, the Celtics were only down 4 points, 72-68.
One of the many things that helped Boston scream their way back to life was Indiana’s abandonment of ball control, which carried into the final quarter of the game. Their defense, aside from that, wasn’t bad: It kept the Cs from establishing a lead despite the Pacers only hitting 4 points in between Q4’s opening and Al Horford’s successive layup and trey, which gave the Celtics a tiny lead that they’d never had for the entirety of the game. It just wasn’t enough to hold Boston back.
Myles Turner and Oladipo are outstanding players, though, and through a combination of layups, foul shots and one thunderous Turner slam dunk, retook the lead for their Pacers, establishing a 6-point cushion over the Celtics with about 2 minutes left in the contest. It would require another miracle comeback, and since it’s awful hard for any NBA team to pull those off on consecutive nights, victory remained just outside the Celtics reach, with Turner making the most of his hacked trips to the charity stripe. He, and Oladipo’s devastating 35 points, put this one to bed as a Celtics loss, 97-91.
HOT ISH: That third quarter was one of the most inspired Celtics performances thus far this season, firing on both ends of the floor.
NOT ISH: Unfortunately the first half before it was one of the worst Celtics performances this season. Good as this team is, it still lacks some consistency—the kind young hungry teams like the new-look Pacers can exploit.
One buzzer-beater from Uncle Al:
And another from T-Ro:
Sadly neither of those were at the end of the game for the win. Meh. Some Kyrie wizardry to bring us home: